To Get Around, take the Bullet Trains and Use the Subways in China

July 26, 2017

Believe me when I suggest avoiding driving or taking a taxi in Beijing unless it is midnight and the city is sort-of sleeping. Beijing is one of the worst cities in the world to drive in. This is probably true for most of China’s crowded cities.

To give you an idea of what I mean by crowded, New York City has a population of about 8.5 million and is ranked #1 in the United States with Los Angeles #2 with less than 4 million people. There are 160 cities in China with a population of over 1 million vs only 10 in the United States.

Here are China’s top five cities ranked by population.

Shanghai – 22 million

Beijing – 10 million

Guangzhou – 11 million

Tianjin – 11 million

Shenzhen – 10 million

I have been to Shanghai and Beijing several times between 1999 – 2008, and have been stuck in Beijing traffic breathing toxic fumes and watching the taxi’s meter adding numbers to the cost of the trip when we could have walked faster for free.

The other choice is Beijing’s subway system built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (and it’s still expanding), which I prefer using. It’s fast and efficient, but wear a money belt because it can become sardine-can crowded creating a perfect environment for pickpockets. I didn’t even wear my backpack on my back. I put it on my chest where I could keep an eye on it. To be fair, Smarter Travel.com warns us of the dangers of pickpockets in New York City. The same advice will help in any major city you visit.


This video was filmed in 2013 when only one subway line was open. Today, Xian has three subway lines with sixty-six stations and an average of 1.5 million people riding the subway daily. Last time I was in Xian in 2008, the subway system was still under construction.

Then there is China’s high-speed rail. It didn’t exist in 2008, and I haven’t been back to China since. Why fly when you can see China from a bullet train moving at 120 – 160 mph (or faster). The Economist reports, “Less than a decade ago China had yet to connect any of its cities by bullet train. Today, it has 20,000km (12,500 miles) of high-speed rail lines, more than the rest of the world combined. It is planning to lay another 15,000km by 2025.”


“China’s high speed trains make travelling the country easy and quick but there are certain things you should know that’ll make using the high speed trains in China a painless process!” – Learn how to ride high-speed rail in China from The Adventurer

Then Manufacturing.net asks, “Why is There No High-Speed Rail Network in America?”

Here is the simple answer. Since World War II, the U.S. has spent about $33-Trillion on its military budgets and fighting endless wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan causing millions to be killed and/or maimed. Without those wars, there would probably be no ISIS. Then there is the fact that since President Reagan in the 1980s, the focus in the United States has been on cutting taxes mostly for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. That has led to about $20 trillion in debt for the federal government. During this time, the U.S. has not kept its infrastructure up-to-date – improvements that would have provided millions of new jobs and benefited the American people.

If the United States had avoided starting so many wars and had a military budget equal to China (ranked #2 in the world), it would have saved about $32-Trillion since World War II. There would be no national debt and the U.S. might even have its own bullet trains speeding from coast to coast.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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